In this month’s news round up we look back at Christmas sales, forward to new payment legislation and how SMEs are pushing ahead with digital sales in 2018.
Little Christmas cheer for business
It’s been a difficult Christmas for many retailers. Traditionally a crucial trading period for businesses, the squeeze on disposable income took its toll. While SMEs worked hard to take advantage of the Christmas feel good factor, some of the bigger boys have not fared so well. Household names Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Mothercare all reported slumps in Christmas sales figures, while supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s reported better trading figures. A British Retail Consortium report said that people spent less on non-food items due to rising food costs. However total retail sales did rise by 1.6% in the 23 weeks up to 6 January, boosted by a 12.3% increase in online sales.
Carillion liquidation puts small businesses at risk
The collapse of construction and services giant Carillion could lead to many UK SMEs facing substantial losses or even unfortunately going under. The company went into liquidation owing 30,000 businesses around £1bn in unpaid bills. Stark warnings were sounded by trade organisations after Carillion finally went bust this month leaving it with just £29m before going bankrupt. Buildings, electronic and engineering SMEs, amongst others, could suffer serious knock-on effects putting staff out of jobs and many in financial peril. Creditors have an anxious wait following news that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP are to be appointed as Special Managers, to act on behalf of the Official Receiver.
SMEs cannot charge customers for paying with credit or debit cards
Important changes to credit card rules are hitting UK businesses this month. From 13 January 2018 it became illegal to charge customers for paying by credit or debit card. All businesses (and any ‘payment service providers’ or PSPs) which accept payment by card will no longer be allowed to add a surcharge if a customer pays by credit or debit card. The only exclusions to the new laws are commercial, business or corporate cards. The new European legislation makes it illegal to add a card surcharge anywhere in the EU. However firms are still free to decide to apply a minimum spend for customers wanting to pay by card.
Huge rise planned in the number of SMEs selling online
88% of SMEs plan to improve digital sales in the coming year compared to the 64% who said the same last year. The finding revealed in a SME Growth Tracker report by Capital Economics drew on a YouGov survey of over 1000 SMEs. The planned increase in digital sales via e-commerce is largely driven by firms intending to sell more through their own company website or via mobile apps, with some planning to sell via third party retailers on the web. It’s a recognition by small businesses that digital tools can be used to improve growth, boost productivity and open up to the international market.
January means online tax return time
Last but certainly not least, the deadline is close for getting online self-assessment tax returns to HM Revenue and Customs. All self-employed people need to complete and submit their online return by 31 January; the return relates to the 2016/17 tax year, which ended in April 2017. In practice most small business owners will fall into this bracket but check the HMRC website to see who is considered self-employed and on how the process works. Check here to see the deadlines for paying your tax bill.
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